5 Reasons Why Travel is Good for Your Mental Health
Anyone who’s been on a relaxing holiday can attest to the benefits, but it’s now official. Planning a holiday escape or even a weekend away can lift your spirits, but going on a longer holiday can improve your creativity, increase your holistic health and mental and psychological well being, according to studies(1).
While travelling to new places can be a challenge, having your routine disrupted, solving problems, interacting with different cultures and hearing different languages is good for the brain. When you have no choice but to deal with new rules, transport timetables, currencies and customs, it can build resilience, reactivate reward circuits and enhance cognition, for instance.
While COVID-19 has dented many of our plans for overseas trips, Australia has a wealth of diversity for tourists to enjoy from Tasmania’s pristine wilderness, to the Central Australian deserts and the fabulous rainforests in Kakadu National Park up north. And that’s only the natural environment. There are plenty of places in Australian cities and regional areas where you can experience adventures and cuisines to rival anything from overseas.
Other benefits of a holiday escape include the following five:
1. Travel Can Make New Neural Pathways
In fact, neuroscientists and psychologists are now looking closely at what many travellers already believe; that spending time in different places in the world or even different areas in your own country may actually change the way the brain is wired, known as neuroplasticity. Creativity is related to neuroplasticity, and our environment and habits influence our neural pathways, which means new sensations, sight and sounds, smells, tastes and languages ignite different synapses in the brain and can revitalise our minds. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to physically change through growth and reorganisation, exposure to new experiences and challenges, and is vital in rehabilitation from many injuries.
2. The Brain Thrives on Stimulation
Your brain gets lazy if it’s kept in cotton wool, and your world can quickly shrink down to the essentials of work, shopping, kids, etc., which is where stress can creep in. Faced with deadlines and duties day in and day out with no change or relief, stress can become chronic. Your brain can actually benefit from being put to the test in a fresh new environment. Travel can break the stress patterns that have built up and allow you to enjoy life’s pleasures which help to reduce levels of cortisol, your body’s stress hormone. The pleasant memories you’ve stored from your time overseas or on holiday anywhere can be a pool of ‘zen’ that you can dip into if you feel any stress when you’re back home and at work.
3. Enrich Your Life and Sense of Empathy
For spiritual, personal and interpersonal growth, you can't go past travel. Encounters with people from different cultures can help you become more flexible, tolerant and aware of ways of life that are unfamiliar. A couple of weeks in an Ashram in India can change your life. Travel can increase your sense of empathy, which in turns helps you to deal with family and work issues in your personal life. Taking a break from your daily routine of rushing and bustling is crucial when it comes to relaxation, recharging and rejuvenating.
4. Broaden Your Perspective
Travelling increases your awareness and makes you more open to experience new things. It also causes you to think about our own values and culture, helping you to reevaluate your principles and outlook. If you've had a divorce, a death in the family or any other major change in your life, a trip away can break the cycle and help you deal with the grief, sadness, or disappointment. Experiencing new cultures, interacting with the people and taking in the beauty of a tourist spot can broaden your perspective on the daily grind back home and help you regain lost confidence.
5. Find a New Sense of Happiness and Freedom
Many seasoned travellers believe people are not wired to stay stuck in one place their whole lives. The excitement of not knowing what the next destination has to offer, the thrill of an adventure such as kayaking, abseiling, or simply cruising leisurely up a famous river can bring happiness and a sense of freedom. Just planning a trip, and the anticipation of an escape from the drudgery can trigger the release of happy hormones in the brain. Studies(2) show happiness can be increased more by the anticipation of doing something like going on a holiday rather than having or buying something.
- Blank C, Gatterer K, Leichtfried V, Pollhammer D, Mair-Raggautz M, Duschek S, Humpeler E, Schobersberger W. Short vacation improves stress-level and well-being in German-speaking middle-managers-a randomized controlled trial. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018;15(1):130. doi:10.3390/ijerph15010130
Alex Morrison has worked with a range of businesses giving him an in-depth understanding of many different industries including home improvement, financial support and health care. He has used his knowledge and experience to work for clients as diverse as Avida Motorhomes, Acacia Pest Control and Biogone to help them reach their business goals.
- Alex Morrison